Saturday, 18 October 2014

Beachy & Crowlink (18 October 2014)

Saturday 18 October.  I spent most of the day at Beachy and Crowlink, much of it with the full compliment of usual suspects (John King, John and David Cooper and Brenda Kay). Very pleasant walking around in mild if somewhat windy weather.  A good scattering of Ring Ouzels, at least 30 in total with 7 in Shooter's Bottom, 3 in the old trapping area, 15-20 in Cow Gap, 3 east of Belle Tout and one at Crowlink.  Unusually some were seen feeding on paths.  I heard a single scold from a Dartford Warbler west of Shooter's Bottom (at the second attempt) and a Hobby flew east over Crowlink.  Hopes of finding a Yellow-browed Warbler were hindered by only seeing 8 Chiffchaffs.  Other migrants were a single Wheatear, 75 Swallows and a House Martin while a Merlin added a taste of winter.  four Jays and 3 Ravens were seen and a flock of 800 mainly Greater Black-backed Gulls roosting off Crowlink included 4 colour-ringed birds, all just too far away to read although one was a North Thames bird.

Ring Ouzel at Shooter's Bottom

East Sussex highways get their weather forecast wrong
Birling and Belle Tout from Crowlink
pity overflying migrants don't always find the Beachy area as attractive as I do 
part of the gull flock off Crowlink
North Thames Greater Black-backed Gull, possibly YK9T?
Hobby going away over Crowlink

Friday 17 October.  Herring Gull A4AH at the university.

Tuesday 14 October.  2 Jays near Shoreham College.

Monday 13 October.  Peregrine on Southwick Power Station and Herring Gull A4AH at the university.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Tidemills/Hope Gap and Beachy (11-12 October)

Sunday 12 October.  This date last year was my best ever for Ring Ouzels with over 400 seen in the Beachy/Crowlink area.  A repeat was VERY unlikely but a bit of east in the forecast gave me some encouragement of seeing at least one or two before the afternoon rain arrived.  I met John King at Birling at 07:15 and we covered most of the areas on Beachy Head.  We did see two Ring Ouzels, one in Shooter's Bottom and one in the Hotel Garden.  They were my first of the year, but an impressive passage of Goldfinches (c900E) was probably the day's highlight.  We also saw 2 Golden Plover, 41 Stock Doves, 39 Sky Larks, 80 Swallows, 26 House Martins, 21 Pied Wagtails, 17 Stonechats, Wheatear, 3 Blackcap, 38 Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest, 4 Jay, a flock of 17 Magpies, 6 Ravens, 110 Linnets, 7 Reed Buntings and 3 Yellowhammers.  On my way home, with last year in mind, I had a quick look around Crowlink, seeing 12 Stock Doves, 10 Swallows, 2 house martins and 8 Chiffchaffs before it started raining.  Also at Crowlink a 'flying away' view of the radio tagged, jessed, escaped large falcon that had been seen in late September.

Wheatear at Beachy
I don't envy it the journey it faces
hope it makes it back next spring
Saturday 11 October.  Heavy showers forecast from mid morning made looking for the Tawny Pipit near Newhaven Tidemills first thing seem like a good option.  It was still present and I also saw 50 Swallows, a Whinchat, 3 Wheatears, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Blackcaps, 11 Chiffchaffs and a Raven.  I left at 10:00 when the pipit flew out of sight over the warehouses with black clouds rapidly approaching from the southwest.  With a reasonable selection of migrants around I headed for Seaford Head barn, being a closer option than Birling, and after a short wait for a heavy shower to pass over I walked the Hope Gap/Harry's Bush circuit.  This was disappointing with 15 Swallows, 5 House Martins, 9 Blackcaps, 35 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests and 8 Long-tailed Tits.  Little was seen on an afternoon walk by the Adur with Megan - the tide was only just dropping with a Curlew by the houseboats, 58 Turnstones roosting on boats by Norfolk Bridge and a brief view of a Kingfisher.

Tawny Pipit at Newhaven Tidemills
a quick runner and not the easiest bird to digiscope

storm approaching Tidemills, sufficient to split the east Pier in two!

Friday 10 October.  2 Peregrines on Southwick Power Station chimney.

Thursday 9 October.  Drove to work and called in at the Adur on my way home.  The tide was still falling and few gulls were seen, only 15 Ringed Plover but 31 Dunlin.

Monday, 6 October 2014

interesting Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the Adur (6 October 2014)?

I took advantage of poor forecast to drive into work enabling me to call in at the Adur on my way home.  No sign of the Caspian Gull but two colour-ringed Lesser Black-backs, one seemingly from Denmark. Also a very striking looking adult Lesser Black-back which appeared to show features of Baltic Gull (L. f. fuscus) , but these are even harder than Caspian Gulls and it did not have the potential clincher - a ring!  Also on the Adur the Wigeon, a Curlew and Kingfisher were still present.
putative fuscus Lesser Black-backed Gull on the Adur
features shown by adult fuscus are small size, slim build with attenuated rear end, very dark mantle which primaries do not contrast with, single mirror on p10, small rounded white head with no streaking, long thin bill and shorter legs.  This image does not show the last feature very well (and p10 isn't visible, but is in a lower image) and note the rounded head.  Unfortunately intermedius can show these features too although this was a most striking individual (otherwise I doubt if I would have noticed it)
note the single mirror on p10.  This image just about shows on the far wing the well-marked border between the large white tips to p1-p4 and the (very) small white tips to p5-10 mentioned in the Advanced Bird ID Guide.  It also mentions primary moult normally starting in August when usually only p1 and p2 are moulted when suspended until in the wintering area in Africa.  This appears to be evident on the nearer wing.  Also a distinct lack of head streaking (noted in the Advanced Bird ID Guide for fuscus up to September/October)
note small size compared to Herring and ringed graellsii Lesser Black-back Gulls behind.  Note also pure white head

compared to the intermedius behind note the small size, pure white head, bright (slighly shorter) legs, very elongated rear and darker mantle.  Note too the larger leg of a Greater Black-back in the top of the image.  This bird shows it self a bit better in the next image ...

my only image with a Greater Black-back nearby. Not the best comparison but note the very small size and darker mantle 
the legs look reassuringly short in this image and the bill long and slender
shows the long wings very well, so long it was a wonder the bird didn't fall backwards.  This image is rather over-exposed in the low evening sun and shows rather more contrast/colour bleaching on the upperparts than was apparent in the field (and the other images) although fuscus can show a brown wash
adult intermedius and Greater Black-backed Gull from above images.  A pity the fuscus type wasn't in the front to show the step change in size.  Note intermedius primaries darker than mantle with large mirrors (c.f. fuscus type above), streaked head and very washed out legs
colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull (N.FNU), ringed as a chick on Havergate Island, Suffolk on 12 July so graellsii.

colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull (V1VN), probably from Denmark.  A darker bird than the above but both were noticably bigger and heavier than the putative fuscus
longer legged too?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Caspian Gull on the Adur (5 October 2014)

My ambition on checking the gulls on the Adur (at low tide, mainly for colour rings) has been to find a Caspian Gull, preferably a colour-ringed individual.  I've previously had a couple that I felt were but didn't feel I had got quite enough on to rule out a hybrid. Today's bird appears to me to be a classic.  According to the CR-birding web-site it appears to have been ringed in the Lausitz area of East Germany, inland near Polish border.  This is a mixed colony where Caspian Gull dominate although hybrids are possible so maybe a trait score is needed.  I'll post more when I find it out.

Today's low tide was mid afternoon and going after the tide had dropped seems a good time to avoid bait-diggers.  A reasonable number of gulls were spread along the Adur by the airport and I went down the west bank to have the sun behind me.  I soon saw a North Thames Herring Gull although it took a while to read the ring (FZ2T).  Then I noticed a very white headed gull which started ringing alarm bells.  That it had a green ring on added to my excitement but although I could read 3 letters it was standing in a dip and I felt it had a 4th.  I changed position to try and get a side view but it twisted to remain head on.  Eventually I got excellent views (and read the 4th letter on the ring).  I phoned Paul James, the only local I had a number for and continued watching and photographing the bird.  Fortunately Paul and Briget arrived before the bird flew off. 

an interesting very white headed gull (although this image is a bit over-exposed) with a green colour ring, my pulse quickened ...
first views of XNEK were not the most helpful wit the X being obscured and side and rear of the bird hidden
it looked very good for Caspian head on (note the very thin legs) but it seemed to take ages to get a view of its side when I felt my suspicions were confirmed.

Caspian Gull in flight
flight shot showing the white head and streaked neck shawl
the white head, grey mantle with darker feather centres, brown covers and black wings give the expected four-coloured effect.  Note also white thumbnail tips to dark tertials, long wings, small forward placed eye and at this angle longish parallel sided bill (perhaps the one feature that I might have liked to be more obvious)
forward positioned small eye and snouty appearance showing well in this image

small head, sagging belly and 'Annaconda having swallowed Capybara' neck
a classic pose showing plumage features and sagging belly

a small bird compared to the nearby Herring Gull so presumably a male
the streaked neck shawl just about visible in this image
it looked pretty much a classic to me


Caspian Gull passing Greater Black-back with dead eel

flying off over Old Shoreham Road, presumably to roost, at 17:46, long wings and drooping bill evident
final shot showing pale underwing
Walking back after it flew off I saw another North Thames Herring Gull (XT6T) while earlier I had seen a Kingfisher, a Wigeon and a Curlew on the same stretch of river.  In the morning Megan and I had a walk around Cissbury.  Lovely and clear (Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower clearly visible) but few birds and migrants represented by 2 Swallows, a superb Tree Pipit, 3 Blackcaps and 8 Chiffchaffs.

Curlew on the Adur
North Thames Herring Gull FZ2T.  Not one I've seen before.
North Thames Herring Gull FZ2T, easier to read when side on
North Thames Herring Gull XT6T
Kingfisher on the Adur

Wigeon on the Adur